Chicken/ Finger Food/ Spice

Spicy Chicken Tenders

June 9, 2019 (Last Updated: June 10, 2020) by Chris Collins

These Spicy Chicken Tenders are ridiculously delicious! Chicken strips marinated in buttermilk and hot sauce, then deep fried for extra crispiness. Need I say more?

I mean we could totally just leave it at that, but I guess you’re gonna need some sort of recipe right? Well, without further ado, let’s get straight into it…

overhead shot of chicken tenders resting on a wire rack, focus on one tender surrounded by the rest.

Chicken Tenders

These are perfect as a side dish, or even as just finger food with a dip. Heck – do we really need an excuse to whip up a batch of crispy tenders?!

Ideally you want actual chicken tenders. They are, as the name suggests, ever so slightly more tender than the breast itself. If you can’t get your hands on chicken tenders, you can dice up chicken breast into strips which works just as well!

The first step to getting juicy tenders is marinating them. Follow me…

closeup of chicken tender with a few more in the background

Buttermilk Chicken Tenders

Like all good fried chicken recipes, these bad boys start with a buttermilk marinade. Buttermilk is great for a few reasons. Firstly, it allows you to easily coat the chicken with flour (unlike eggs which are far more likely to go clumpy). Secondly, it’s slightly acidic, meaning it penetrates and tenderises the chicken as it marinates. Because who doesn’t want tender chicken tenders?

I can’t find buttermilk, what can I substitute?

One sub you could use is yogurt (for acidity) thinned out with a little milk (to help texture for dredging). You could also add acidity to milk (white vinegar, lemon juice) and let it rest, then mix and use as a marinade.

Spicy Chicken Marinade

The marinade itself is really simple. You just need buttermilk, hot sauce, salt and white pepper.

How long to marinate for?

Ideally you’re looking for a minimum of 2 hours, with best results leaving over night. As long as you have time for though, even 30mins is better than no marinating!

Process shots: add buttermilk, hot sauce, salt & pepper to a bowl (photo 1), stir then add tenders (photo 2), combine then cover and marinate (photo 3).

How to make a spicy chicken marinade - 3 step by step photos

Spicy Chicken Breading

Okay, so we’ve got a nice kick of spice from the hot sauce in the marinade, now let’s talk flour breading. The main heat here comes from cayenne pepper. Alongside onion & garlic powder and paprika, these tenders result in a gorgeous burst of flavour.

Baking Powder

One of the key ingredients in the dredging mix is baking powder. When this hits the oil it causes a reaction, which in turn causes lots of tiny bubbles. This is what gives you that crispy, airy batter!

Top Tip – Ensure you thoroughly dredge the tenders through the flour. This step is crucial to create those gorgeous crispy/flaky parts of the batter.

Process shots: Add flour and spices to a tray or bowl (photo 1), combine until fully blended (photo 2), add one chicken strip at a time (photo 3), fully coat, ensuring you cover every spec of the chicken (photo 4), rest on a wire rack until ready to deep fry (photo 5).

How to make crispy chicken tenders - 5 step by step photos

Deep Fried Chicken Tenders

Unfortunately/fortunately (which ever way you look at it) to get the true KFC style crispy chicken, it’s deep frying all the way.

Hey, nobody said these were healthy 😂

Best Oil to use?

You want an oil that a) has a neutral flavour and b) has a high smoking point. Vegetable and sunflower work great. Olive oil is NOT suitable.

What temp to fry at?

You want to get the oil to around 350F/175C. The temp is likely to drop when the chicken hits the oil, and that’s fine, just maintain the heat.

Top Tip – I highly recommend using a kitchen thermometer, just for accuracy. If you don’t have access to one, you can drop a small bit of batter in the oil. If it slowly rises to the top and sizzles you’ll be good to go.

stone slab with chicken strips, chips and dip on top. Holding one chicken strip above the slab with focus on that.

Serving Spicy Chicken Tenders

I usually serve these as finger food with a dip. My favourites are Blue Cheese Dip, BBQ Mayo and Garlic and Herb Dip – but do check out all my Delicious Dips for more inspo!

You could also make a meal out for them and serve them with Fries or Wedges!

If you’re looking for more Chicken Tenders recipes be sure to check out my Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders and Bacon Wrapped Chicken Tenders!

For more spicy chicken recipes head over to my Spicy Chicken Pasta and Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese!

Okay, let’s tuck into the full recipe for these Spicy Chicken Tenders recipe shall we!?

dunking a chicken tender into sriracha mayo in a white bowl.

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How to make Spicy Chicken Tenders (Full Recipe & Video)

closeup of chicken tender with a few more in the background

Spicy Fried Chicken Tenders

These Spicy Chicken Tenders are ridiculously delicious! Chicken strips marinated in buttermilk and hot sauce, then deep fried for extra crispiness. Need I say more?!
5 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer / Finger Food
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marinating Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings (click & slide): 16 tenders
Calories: 130kcal
Cost per serving: £2.50 / $3

Equipment:

  • Suitably Sized Pot (for deep frying)
  • Shallow bowl or Curved Tray (for dredging)
  • Large Mixing Bowl & Cling Film (for marinating)
  • Kitchen Thermometer
  • Cooling Wrap & Paper Towels
  • Tongs

Ingredients (check list):

  • 1.3lb / 600g Chicken Tenders (see notes)
  • 3-4 cups / 750ml - 1 litre Vegetable Oil (see notes)

Marinade

  • 1 cup / 250ml Buttermilk (see notes)
  • 1/4 cup / 60ml Hot Sauce (I use Frank's)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp White Pepper

Dry Mix

  • 1 3/4 cups / 250g Plain Flour
  • 2 tsp Paprika
  • 1.5 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 tsp EACH: Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Baking Powder, Salt

Instructions:

  • Combine chicken with the buttermilk, hot sauce, salt and white pepper. Cover and place in the fridge for as long as you have time for. Preferably overnight, absolute minimum 2 hours.
  • Meanwhile, in a shallow dish or curved tray combine flour, cayenne pepper, baking powder, paprika, onion & garlic powder and salt. One by one, coat your chicken strips in the dry mix, making sure you cover every spec of chicken. Press the mix right into the chicken so it goes nice and flaky. Place on a wire wrack and repeat.
  • Heat up your oil to around 350F/175C. To test without a thermometer, drop a tiny piece of batter in the oil, if it very slowly rises to the top, you should be good to go. A medium heat for around 8-10 minutes should obtain this. The temp will slightly drop when the chicken hits, which is fine, just maintain that heat (no lower than 320F/160C).
  • Working in batches of 3-4, carefully place your strips into the oil. Separate them with tongs if the instantly stick together, then leaves for 3-4mins until they start turning golden. Flip over and leave for another few minutes until deep golden and visibly crispy. If your oil is too hot simply pour in more oil/turn down heat. If you're not confident with deep frying then test one strip first.
  • Place on a wire rack with a tray or paper towel underneath. Enjoy with a dip or as a side!

Quick 1 min demo!

Notes:

a) Chicken Tenders - If you can get chicken tenders that's preferable, if not you can slice chicken breast into strips which will work just as well.
b) Buttermilk - Buttermilk has great consistency (not too thin, not too thick) and the slight acidity also tenderises the chicken. It is preferable, but if you can't get your hands on it you could sub 3/4 cup plain unsweetened yogurt (for acidity) mixed with 1/4 cup milk to thin out (for texture). Another good buttermilk sub is 1 cup milk mixed with 1 tbsp acid (white vinegar or lemon juice). Mix together and let it sit for 10mins before mixing in the chicken. This is a slightly thinner solution than buttermilk, so if you’re doing this just make sure you give it a thorough dredge through the flour.
c) Oil - You want to use an oil with a high smoking point with a neutral flavour to it, like vegetable or sunflower oil. Do not use olive oil.
d) Spice Level - the 1/4 cup hot sauce and 1.5 tsp cayenne pepper give these tenders a nice kick of spice. Nothing too drastic, but definitely apparent. As everyone's spice preference is different, if you're concerned then use 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper in the mix, test with one tender, and adjust accordingly if you want more. This way you won't spoil the whole batch with them being too spicy. Much easier to add spice than remove it.
e) When is the Chicken Cooked? - Ensure the chicken is white all the way through the centre, piping hot, with the juices running clear. The safe internal temp of chicken is 165f/75c.
f) Calories - It's really tricky to calculate deep fried recipes, but the below stats are based on the following: 1/2 cup buttermilk stuck on, 3/4 cup flour stuck and 1.5 tsp oil absorbed during cooking. Calories per tender.

Nutrition:

Nutrition Facts
Spicy Fried Chicken Tenders
Amount Per Serving
Calories 130 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 7.98g12%
Saturated Fat 5.824g29%
Trans Fat 0.005g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0.331g
Monounsaturated Fat 1.066g
Cholesterol 27mg9%
Sodium 128mg5%
Potassium 154mg4%
Carbohydrates 5.28g2%
Fiber 0.3g1%
Sugar 0.45g1%
Protein 9.24g18%
Vitamin A 500IU10%
Vitamin C 0.8mg1%
Calcium 10mg1%
Iron 0.5mg3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition is based on the absence of salt unless stated as a measurement in the ingredients. Cost is worked out based on ingredients bought from UK supermarkets, then divided by the number of servings. In both instances these values are just for guidance. Please check out my FAQ Page for more info.
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